September 24th, 2020

Our volunteer rescue crews provide the primary maritime search and rescue service in New Zealand. Last year we brought over 6,951 people home safely after an emergency on the water. We are able to do this by being organised, trained and equipped 24/7.


Volunteering for Coastguard: A way of life


Since the first Coastguard unit was formed in 1898, Coastguard has been run by volunteers, and that remains the case today. We are hugely
proud of our volunteers – people from all communities and walks of life who dedicate a huge amount of their free time to keeping their fellow
New Zealanders alive.


Coastguard volunteers spend many hundreds of thousands of hours on search and rescue missions, radio operations, training or maintenance work each year. They’re highly trained professional volunteers, so you can be safe in the knowledge that when you call Coastguard for help, you’ll be in expert hands.  Find out more about our volunteers.


Our search and rescue volunteers are based at 63 Coastguard 'units': 



  • 59 wet units crewing rescue vessels and providing services to local boaties, positioned in strategic locations around the coast and on major lakes and rivers, from Houhora to Bluff
  • Two air patrol units in Auckland and Northland who piloting search and rescue aircraft
  • Two dedicated communications units in Auckland and Tauranga

Our national office, Royal New Zealand Coastguard Inc, was formed in 1976


It was formed by volunteers, for volunteers, to bring what were diverse and varied search and rescue operations under one banner. Over the years the national office has established common standards and procedures for marine search and rescue in New Zealand.  Also known as Coastguard New Zealand, and with Prince Charles as our Patron, the national office is based in Auckland and provides funding, governance, operational, communications and marketing support to the whole organisation.


Our four Regions provide operational, financial and strategic support for our volunteer crews. They are:



  • Coastguard Northern Region (Northland, Auckland, Waikato)
  • Coastguard Eastern Region (Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Gisborne, Hawkes Bay)
  • Coastguard Central Region (Taranaki, Manawatu-Wanganui, Wellington, Marlborough, Tasman)
  • Coastguard Southern Region (West Coast, Canterbury, Otago, Southland)

Helping boaties stay safe on the water


In an ideal world, vessels would not encounter difficulties at sea, but all activities involve risk and amongst other things, boating is influenced by unpredictable marine weather and constantly changing sea conditions.


Nevertheless, we believe that educating the boating public on how to stay safe on the water is of vital importance in keeping New Zealanders safe.  For many years we have been offering popular boating courses through our subsidiary, Coastguard Boating Education. These are accessible to
all; and we are proud to draw on years of experience to provide practical advice and guidance for safe boating


Raising funds to keep our service going


Coastguard is a registered charity, and each year we need to raise roughly 90% of our income from individuals, corporate sponsors and trusts. Coastguard operates a national membership scheme for boaties, regular national lotteries, and a range of fundraising activities including a monthly giving club and Coastguardians, a special group of supporters who leave a gift in their Will to save lives at sea.


We cover the remaining 10% of our costs through a service level agreement with the New Zealand government.


Click here to find out how you can get involved.

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